Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Tim Lippe, as played by actor Ed Helms as a somewhat slower version of the same character he plays in those ‘Hangover’ movies, is a grown man who is in love with his old sixth grade elementary school teacher Mrs. Vanderhei (Sigourney Weaver). Tim actually asks Mrs. Vanerhei, after an afternoon of love, did she ever think about him in that way while she was teaching social studies way back when. That’s kind of weird and uncomfortable Tim. Tim, if we were to make a quick diagnosis, is socially retarded. But gosh darn if social retardation doesn’t make for some great comedy like the kind we got in this movie ‘Cedar Rapids’.

Tim sells insurance in some Midwest town that Ann Arbor Michigan is pretending to be. I know this because I had a semi-encounter with Anne Heche while they were filming this movie. Like I kind of saw Anne walking down the street and honked at her. At least I think it was her. Anyway, there’s an insurance conference in Cedar Rapids Iowa and normally this agencies top agent, Robert Lemke (Thomas Lennon), won’t be able to make it this year due to some unforeseen circumstances, so the Bossman (Steven Root) sends Tim in his place to give the big presentation and hopefully bring home the cherished Two Diamond Award for the third year in a row. I think that’s what they called that award.

The thing is that Tim has never been out of this slow town of his, has never been on an airplane, has never stayed in a hotel… nothing. Thus when Tim arrives at this hotel and meets his hotel roommate Ronald (Isiah Whitlock) Tim is taken aback because apparently there are no Black people where he is from either. Once that was smoothed over with some help from Mrs. Vanderhei by remote control, Tim is doubly taken aback by his second hotel roommate, the profane, crass and completely inappropriate Dean Ziegler (John C. Rielly) who Bossman told him specifically to avoid. And there was no way that Tim was ready to handle Joan (Heche), a force of nature who treats this conference as her own personal playground of debauchery. What I wouldn’t do to have my own playground of debauchery.

So imagine you’ve gone through your entire life of around forty or so years and haven’t experienced anything, outside of sex with your old elementary school teacher… which admittedly is a little on the freaky side… and clearly, if that’s the first time you’ve experienced anything like that it will lead to silly undying declarations of love… then in the next two days you experience everything. Black people, corruption, weed smoking, prostitution, infidelity, homosexuality, cocaine snorting, crack smoking, ass kickings, face stompings, drunkenness, deception, betrayal, wanton immorality and the promise of anal sex. All in two days. My older brother would call that a slow and disappointing weekend. Tim Lippe, however, will never be the same.

Directed by Miguel Arteta ‘Cedar Rapids’ is odd little comedy in that it is sweetly presented, but at same time a little raunchy in its content. The story seems to have its tongue firmly in its cheek, but at the same it is dealing with some pretty serious subject matter. ‘Cedar Rapids’ is offbeat in a mainstream kind of way. What a conundrum. At least the conundrum of trying to classify what the director’s movie is or what it’s trying to be, because there is no conundrum or debate, at least where I was sitting, on whether or not it’s funny because I found the movie to be consistently so.

Part of this winning comedy formula comes from watching familiar actors do things we are familiar watching them do. Can Ed Helms play a repressed social misfit? Sure he can. Can Anne Heche handle the role of an aggressive woman of suspect moral value? Uh… yeah. Does John C. Reilly know how to amp up the obnoxiousness? I’m thinking he does. When we see Rob Coddry later on in this movie, is anyone surprised to see my man playing a profane, rude, anti-social asshole? I’m guessing no.

Of course putting people in their right places is no guarantee of success but fortunately for us, the easy nature of the surroundings of ‘Cedar Rapids’ combined with the sublime ridiculousness of everything that is going on during Tim Lippe’s wacky weekend gave us some damn good laughs. Not all of the time but most of the time.

As we mentioned earlier, ‘Cedar Rapids’ is a different kind of comedy with is clashing styles, but it is one that hits the mark on most of what it was shooting for.

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